Forgive them anyway

September 14, 2014

think deeply advice

Do it Anyway, an Inspirational Poem

by Kent Keith and popularized by Mother Teresa

People are often unreasonable,
illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind,
people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful,
you will win some false friends and true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest anyway.

What you spend years building,
someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

• • •

I don’t know about you, but as I age the lessons seem to come faster and more furiously and in unexpected places.

This poem, attributed to Mother Theresa but written by someone else, always seems to appear in my sphere at the right time, reminding me of lessons learned and yet to be learned.

With the crystal clarity of six decades behind me I can see that my big lessons this lifetime all have to do with forgiveness: big, small, medium. All sizes and types.


And just when I think I’ve got it under control, some other situation will crop up in my life to test me again.

You’d think I’d ace the test, given that I already know the answers.

But no. It’s not that simple.

When people you’ve loved, dear friends, betray you in ways that seem unforgivable, well, they seem unforgivable.

Since I already know that freedom is in forgiving, I flounder around for a while  (this part drives M. crazy) and then begin to parse the situation.

I can forgive her but not him.

I can forgive the people but not the act.

And so forth. Many permutations.

But you know what? It’s all the same.


Forgiveness can be hard. And it can seem impossible.

Yet, I know that it isn’t impossible, even in the most difficult of scenarios. Because once you’ve forgiven family, well, you’ve met the challenge.

Not too long ago something unforgivable happened in my world, or so I thought.

I said it was unforgivable.

And yet, that same day, I was able to find the path to forgiveness.  To see the pain that lay beneath the action. To access the sad heart it belonged to.

And to forgive.

It’s important to remember that we’re on our soul’s journey here on earth and that it’s all about its growth. Each lesson in soul school is meant to be learned and practiced again and again.

The practice of forgiveness, it seems, will remain the theme of my life for its remainder.

I have no reason to keep people who cause pain in my life, but I do have the need to forgive them and release my own pain.

And to my relief, I could.

Because I am nothing if not an over-achiever, and I do NOT want to belabor the discomfort of the life review that’s waiting for me when it’s my turn to go.

Just sayin’.

17 comments on “Forgive them anyway
  1. Pat says:

    Thanks, Carol. I needed to reflect on this today as a couple colleagues undermined me again. I am going to print this out, take a deep breath, let go and forgive. AGAIN!

    • It always blindsides me when people act out like this. I guess I can’t shake my cock-eyed optimism. But I’m relieved that forgiveness comes more easily than it used to. With my family it took years, but I’m proud that I got there.

  2. This “forgiveness thing” is kind of like going to the gym. You know you have to go there, you don’t really want to, but once you do, you feel amazing! Embrace the weights for your physical health and embrace forgiveness for your mental health and LIFE~ These are not “one and done” things, you have to keep on going, but it does gets easier and easier to do both as you get stronger and stronger! ((YAY))

  3. Carol, I always learn from whatever travels you are on. It makes me think. Thank you for that. I will be turning this over in my head all day. My dad talked a lot about starting each day with a new slate – and I have thought about life like that a lot.

    • Your father sounds very wise. For me it took a really long time to forgive at first–I didn’t know how to do it because I was so caught up in my own pain. But one day, it was there. To my surprise.

  4. Laura Kennedy says:

    So true! I would add one thing: Beware of false or premature forgiveness, done because we want to be good people, or get past it, or whatever…because that can blow up on you in surprising ways!

    Although we can take useful steps to work toward it, forgiveness comes when it comes. Like grace.

    • That’s my experience of it, too. But I really massaged it, talking about it, reading about it, asking that I find it. It took a looong time. But now, I have the path and I can travel it whenever I want.

  5. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do once someone has betrayed your trust. In my case, I can usually forgive people, but I have a hard time FORGETTING.

    • For me, now, but not before, the forgiveness comes more quickly. But when there is a grievous betrayal, I also quickly jettison that person from my life. With blessings, but gone nonetheless.

  6. It does pay to be an overachiever doesn’t it?! 😉 And you’re absolutely right, Carol, that we forgive to release ourselves from the pain and bondage. To me it’s different from forgetting, which I believe is unwise anyway. We do have to try to choose better, choose more wisely, though it may be the more difficult path, as the poem clearly illustrates. When things get really hard, I just remind myself that it’s investing in my good karma.

    • I read once that holding a grudge was like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I think that’s true. But you know, there has never been a case of betrayal or acting out that hasn’t been preceded by many, many clues and hints about that person that I ignored.

  7. joan says:

    I’ve always loved that writing and shared it with love!! What you have to say is right on…. Thanks….
    My sadness is that the latest person to whom I gave the writing… is the on who most disappointed and hurt me…..! Made me think I should never have shared the poem… But yes, I have forgiven…
    And another thought… Recently I bumped into a person who ended our friendship over 30 years ago… and I was terribly hurt!!… Now we’ve gotten together and we are again enjoying our times together! Not the same depth.. but fun anyway…

  8. One lesson I learned in my decade and a half withe the forgiveness thing at Alanon—wait until you are truly ready to forgive, because it will otherwise be a false forgiveness. Give your self time, and it may take a while.

  9. I do think the lessons are coming faster! I hadn’t realized it. I’m going to keep my head and heart on the look out.

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